Issue 06 (March 16)
On March 11, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319). As previously reported, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill includes $600 million in funding to support research related to the pandemic at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and $100 million to support research related to K-12 learning loss at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The bill also includes $39.9 billion in funding to support colleges and universities. Now that this major piece of legislation has been enacted, lawmakers’ attention will turn to appropriations for the coming fiscal year. In addition, discussions will begin for another aid bill targeted for later in the spring that will be more broadly focused on recovery and infrastructure.
COSSA members are invited to register for COSSA’s 2021 virtual Social Science Advocacy Day on April 27. Social Science Advocacy Day is the only annual, coordinated advocacy day in support of all of the social and behavioral sciences. The event brings together social scientists and other science advocates from across the country to engage with policymakers. Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, the registration fee for Advocacy Day is only $25, but spots are limited, so register soon.
In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.
Culminating a two-year effort, on August 2 Congress cleared the America COMPETES Act. Combining many aspects of House and Senate legislation that traveled through both bodies in 2006 and 2007, the over 450 page bill includes provisions affecting the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Energy, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Education (DOE), and the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP). As a number of House Members noted during the debate on the House-Senate conference report, this is only an authorization bill and many of the funding levels may not be provided by the appropriators. Nonetheless, House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) led this successful effort through many mine fields during its route to passage.
The NSF portion of the legislation reauthorizes the agency for three years at funding levels that will keep the agency on a path to double its budget in seven years. The bill particularly increases authorization levels for K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education by increasing funding for scholarship programs to train and retrain math and science teachers and by further encouraging math and science partnerships between universities and elementary and secondary schools. The legislation also provides for expansion of the Graduate Fellowship program, the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, and the early career grants program (CAREER), and creates a new pilot program of seed grants for outstanding new investigators.
In addition, the bill includes provisions to help broaden participation in STEM fields at all levels. It requests a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report to identify barriers to and opportunities for increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.
The bill resists calls for open access within a certain time period as required in the bill appropriating FY 2008 funds for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (see Update June, 25, 2007). The COMPETES bill simply says that the NSF Director shall ensure that “final project reports and citations resulting from research funded…are made available to the public in a timely manner and in electronic form through the Foundation’s Web site.” It does, however, cut off subsequent grants to investigators who fail to share their data within a reasonable time as required by Section 734 of the NSF Grants Manual.
Last month, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced the intent of the committee to accept requests for “Community Project Funding” in the fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations bills. Although the announcement essentially reverses the decade-long House ban on earmarks set by the Republican majority in 2011, Chairwoman DeLauro’s plan includes new rules to govern the process. Among the reforms include posting every request online for public viewing, limiting the number of requests allowed per member to 10, and a cap on the total amount of funding to be used for projects at no more than one percent of total discretionary spending. The Senate has not yet announced whether or how it might reintroduce earmarks this year. Additional details are expected in the coming weeks as activity around the FY 2022 process ramp up.
Biden Issues Executive Orders Establishing Gender Policy Council & Protections on Sex and Gender Identity in Schools
On March 8, 2021, President Biden issued two executive orders signaling his Administration’s priorities on national gender policy. The first executive order (EO 14020) establishes a new White House Council on Gender Policy, which would largely be responsible for coordinating federal government efforts to advance gender equity and programs that address gender-based issues. The Council will include co-chairs chosen by the White House as well as representatives from major Federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation, and would be tasked with developing a government-wide strategy to advance gender equity and equality within 200 days of the issuance of the order.
The second executive order (EO 14021) guarantees protections against discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, including sexual orientation and gender identity, in schools that receive federal funding, as codified in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The order also authorizes the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Attorney General, to review existing regulations that affect sex and gender in schools to consider suspending, revising, or revoking those that do not align with the Administration’s protections.
Both executive orders are available on the White House website.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has released a new consensus study that details how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women in STEM fields. The report, Impact of COVID-19 on the Careers of Women in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “identifies, names, and documents how the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the careers of women in academic STEMM during the initial 9-month period since March 2020 and considers how these disruptions—both positive and negative—might shape future progress for women.” NASEM has also compiled its most important reports, findings, and activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic released over the past year into a new publication: Critical Findings on COVID-19.
The Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), a COSSA governing member, has announced the selection of Saima K. Hedrick as its next executive director effective April 5. Hedrick comes to SRCD from the Society for the Study of Reproduction, where she has served as executive director for over three years. She will succeed Martha Zaslow, who has been acting as interim executive director.